Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Writer and the Literary Press: Ready, Steady, Submit!

Now comes the big moment. The big unknown moment. The unsteady, the unsure, the insecure moment. This is the moment to get others involved in our creative work. Strangers. It's time to submit.

For most writers of fiction and most poets there is only one type of submission: the unsolicited manuscript. Fortunately, most literary magazines only accept one kind of manuscript, the unsolicited. With the unsolicited manuscript comes a great deal of the unknown. With the great deal of the unknown comes the inevitable and the relentless line of rejections.

So. Why bother? If you're a writer, you want readers. You want publication. You want recognition. You want success. You want to be the next big name. If you're lucky, you may even get paid. So, all those negative thoughts, all that uncertainty, you must shelf it and submit your work.

If you have written a great short story and you have properly formatted it, now comes the real work. Here are the steps:
  1. Market research
  2. Following the submission guidelines
  3. The cover letter
  4. Your third person bio
Market research. Start reading magazines. Start subscribing to magazines. Start today. Here are a few resources to get you started:
I use New Pages almost daily. I have an affection for them because they have always been good to Umbrella Factory Magazine. And I met them at the AWP conference a few years back and I thought they were very cool people. New Pages has a great filtering feature on their “Big List of Lit Magazines” which is helpful. New Pages is free to use. Every Writer's Resource, also free, has a slightly different angle than New Pages. Every Writer's Resource has articles, reviews and interviews which I find interesting and helpful in my development. And Duotrope? This is a wonderful service. They have an extensive list of magazines and publishers complete with profiles and information. Unlike the others, Duotrope charges a very nominal membership fee. For your money, they offer a “submission tracker” feature which can be very useful.

No matter how you get your information, you must read these magazines. When I look at a magazine, I have a specific list: I look at the general design, I read the “About” or mission statement, I look at the “Submissions” page and then I'll read a few stories. If I feel like I have a piece of work that they may like, I'll submit, if not, I'll move on.

At this point, if you do not have a Submittable account, sign up for one:

When it comes time to submit, you have only one real confidence. You have confidence in your manuscript. If you are not 100% with your manuscript, stop what you're doing and go back and rewrite. If you are ready, submit.

Your submission will have three parts: the cover letter, the manuscript and a third person bio. I covered all of these in my “Pursuit of Publication” series in November and December 2011. A short rehash: keep your cover letter very brief, kind and professional. A sentence of introduction, where you found the magazine, first. Second sentence: a hook and synopsis of your story, also let them know your piece is previously unpublished, if it's submitted elsewhere and the word count. Last sentence: a thank you. If there are other requirements in the submission guidelines, this is where to include it.

Next, make sure your manuscript fits the guidelines. If they want your manuscript in Sans Serif font, please change your Times New Roman to their desired font. Make sure you have done everything the guidelines have asked, including the preferred method of sending the manuscript.

Last, the third person bio. Believe it or not, I have declined a story because I didn't want to deal with the writer because of the bio. The bio is your way of letting readers, editors and other writers get to know you. You can be professional, personal, funny, but please be succinct. My bio is exactly 50 words. I list three publications, one professional position and my contact:

Anthony ILacqua's third novel Warehouses and Rusted Angels is forthcoming. His novels, Dysphoric Notions (2012) and Undertakers of Rain (2013) are both published through Ring of Fire Publishing. He currently functions as editor in chief for Umbrella Factory Magazine that he co-founded in 2009. Meet Anthony at his blog:

If you have a Submittable account, Submittable will keep your information and populate the fields with your information when you submit to a magazine who uses the service. I have a great deal of love for Submittable and you will too. It takes the guess work out of everything.

Once you have your submission ready (the cover letter, the bio and the manuscript) submit. Submit and wait.

Next time: The Reject/Accept

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